A Catholic Monthly Magazine

24 Lights of Lent

Victor Parachin

Lent, the 40 weekdays preceding Easter, was established to give Christians an opportunity to renew their commitments, reflect on their lives and respond to Jesus' teaching to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and ... love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 28:36 NIV) Here are 24 ways to make the most of the 40 days.

1 – Suspend judging others. 

“In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible,” says spiritual writer Henri Nouwen. “But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of deep spiritual life and will be easily recognised by those who long for reconciliation.” 

Comfort, comfort my people. (Isaiah 40:1) 

2 – Control your anger. 

“Within each of us, often times, there dwells a mighty and raging fury,” says the fictional Incredible Hulk. During Lent, one woman worked to change this emotion in her life saying: “I don't consider myself an angry person. I wouldn't dream of raising my voice at a rude salesperson yet, I realised there are three people I easily become angry with: My husband and my two children. For Lent I vowed to rein in my anger toward the people I love most. It's worked!”

3 – Comfort a griever. 

Do what the prophet urged: “Comfort, comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1) We all know someone who is suffering from a loss due to death, divorce, separation, disability, layoff, etc. Visit a griever offering a listening ear and gentle words of encouragement. 

4 – Watch your mouth. 

Before beginning your day reflect on this teaching of Jesus: “Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'” (Matthew 15:10) Remember that your words can heal or hurt, injure or inspire, bring peace or bring pain. Speak words of encouragement, kindness and compassion.

5 – Try to please God. 

Be guided by this prayer written by 17th century British clergyman Edward Lake: “Lord, as your mercies do surround us, so grant that our return of duty may abound; and let this day manifest our gratitude by doing something well-pleasing unto you.”

6 – Drive compassionately. 

Let another vehicle into your lane, be patient if the vehicle in front of you is moving slowly, allow a pedestrian to get across the street. Driving compassionately comes under this teaching of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

7 – See Christ in every person you meet. 

Whether your encounter with others today is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, see each person as Jesus himself. Allow this prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to be your prayer for the day: “Grant me to recognise in others, Lord God, the radiance of your own face.”

8 – Let go. 

Don't cling so tightly to things and people which are not good for you. Learn to let go: of a dysfunctional friendship; of a position in a toxic work environment; of a career which doesn't bring satisfaction; of unhappiness; of being in control.

9 – Let God. 

Remember that sometimes life is an unpredictable adventure. When your life's journey hits a rough place and the way forward isn't clear, turn it over to God. This is what Jesus did in his time of crisis: “Father...not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) This approach is not surrender but a release based on confidence that Divine wisdom is supporting and surrounding you.

10 – Be a vegetarian for Lent. 

Research full meal recipes which don't require meat. Vegetarian cookbooks are an ideal source. Then, commit to a meat-free Lent or, if that's not possible for your family, then consider vegetarian meals two or three times a week.

11 – Schedule kindness into your day. 

That advice comes from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin who recommends literally blocking off a time period during the day when you will engage in acts of kindness. “Schedule kindness into you day, whether it means visiting one who is sick, making a call on behalf of someone who is searching for work, or conferring with a person who needs advice,” he says. “If you don't schedule in kindness (such as 'Between two and two-thirty today, I'm devoting myself to helping others') you are likely to forget to do it.”

12 - Smile at everyone you meet. 

Your smile may be the only nice moment in someone's life that day. Remember too, that smiling is beneficial for both the recipient as well as yourself. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy,” notes Vietnamese poet Thich Nhat Hanh

13 – Do a retreat in your home. 

One couple set aside a Friday evening in Lent for a personal retreat in their home. “It was just the two of us. We came home from work at 6 pm, lit candles on a table and began with a simple prayer,” they explain. “Then, we read Jesus' sermon on the mount, pausing at passages which especially triggered something in either one of us. We took time to reflect on them and write out our insights on those passages. Finally, we concluded with a time of silent meditation and ended with prayer. Our private retreat lasted until 9 pm., three very worthwhile hours.”

14 – Drop a vice. 

We all have bad habits we'd like to change. Lent is an ideal time to identify a vice and then just drop it. This act may have been in the mind of the apostle Paul when he wrote: “Put off your old self...put on the new self.” (Ephesians 4:22-23

15 – Embrace a virtue. 

Adopt one of the 'fruits' of the spirit and do you best to live it out hour by hour and day by day. The fruits of the spirit are found in Galatians 5:22-23 - “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

16 - Make up with someone. 

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was an influential 18th century spiritual teacher who said: “If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix. If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal.” Reach out and make up with someone where there's been fracture.

17 – Practice persistence. 

Author Daphne Rose Kingma says: “Persistence is the spiritual grace that allows you to continue to act with optimism even when you feel trapped in the pit of hell. It is the steadfast, continual, simple practice of trudging forward until the difficult present you're scared will go on forever, is replaced by a future that has a new colour scheme.”

18 – Give to someone in need. 

Think of someone you know who is struggling financially - such as a student, a single parent, a retiree, someone unemployed. Buy and mail them a prepaid bank card. Do this anonymously in keeping with Jesus’ teaching - “When you give do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:3)

19 - Create sacred space in your home.

 Even if you live in the tiniest of apartments, set aside a prayer space or a prayer chair. Then, spend time in that sacred space every day.

20 – Pray for an 'enemy'. 

This could be someone you find difficult to get along with. Pray for that person and, in prayer, for a way to overcome the  feelings of enmity that arise in you. (Matthew 5:44)

21 - Encourage someone who discouraged. 

A few carefully chosen words of support can make an enormous difference to someone who is struggling. When the apostle Paul was under house arrest he was sustained by the support of his friends. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement” he wrote in his letter to Philemon (v. 7)

22 – Read some bible prayers. 

Let the bible become your prayer book during Lent. There are man notable prayers in scripture. Research them out allowing them to saturate your own mind and spirit. Here are some to get you started:

• To be shaped by God, the Potter (Isaiah 64:8)

• Stephen's prayer at being persecuted (Acts 7:59-60)

• Hezekiah's prayer while ill (Isaiah 38:2-8)

• Paul's prayer for spiritual growth (Ephesians 3:14-21)

23 – Help a stranger. 

It's easy to reach out and help family and friends. Do the same for someone you don't know. One cold winter day, Laura, from Chicago, heard her front tyre rupture when she drove over a board with nails. “I had no idea what to do,” she says. At the next traffic light a young man knocked on her window to say that if she pulled over, he would change the tyre. “And he did, despite the bitter cold and risk of getting tire grime all over his clothing.” The woman thanked the young man and later sent him a coffee shop gift card.

24 – Extend compassion to all of God's creatures. 

St. Basil is famous for his prayer of blessing upon animals: “O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom you gave the earth as their home.” One evening a woman saw a homeless man tie his puppy to a pole outside a grocery store and head inside. Unhappy about being left alone, the puppy began to bark. The man turned around, shouted at the small creature and kicked it viciously. Though the woman who saw this was allergic to dogs, she followed the man inside offering him $50 for the puppy. He accepted. She took the creature home and, within two weeks, found a permanent home for the puppy with a kind family.

Tagged as:

Comments are closed.